‘Don’t Make Me Go’ Review: A Wonderfully Pensive John Cho Performance Makes This a Worthwhile Trip

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Don’t Make Me Go, from director Hannah Marks, makes its audience aware from the very beginning that they might not like where the story is heading. “You’re not going to like the way this story ends,” begins the film with a voiceover from Wally (Mia Isaac), “but I think you’re going to like this story.” It’s a bold choice to begin your screenplay (from This Is Us and Awkward. writer Vera Herbert) with an acknowledgment of potential disappointment, but considering that Don’t Make Me Go’s success for the viewer will largely depend on how that ending plays, it’s not a terrible idea to have the audience braced and ready for a letdown.

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Don’t Make Me Go centers on single father Max, played by John Cho, and his teenage daughter, Wally. Max discovers that he has a bone tumor in his skull, that if left untreated, will probably kill him in a year, and the surgery to repair the damage only has about a 20% success rate. While Max is worried about these likely last few months of life, Wally is more focused on her questionable budding romance with a teenage boy. Max decides to take Wally on a cross-country road trip for Wally to finally meet her mother, all while avoiding that his life is a ticking clock.

Don’t Make Me Go’s road trip structure isn’t anything new, and like so many similar road trip films, the film lives or dies by the characters within the car. Cho and Isaac have nice chemistry, especially during the film’s more emotional and resonate moments. On their own, however, Don’t Make Me Go doesn’t have the same strength—especially when the film primarily focuses on Wally. This isn’t because of Isaac, but rather, because the stakes are so much lower for this character. While the film’s ending does add more weight to these individual moments, they only are effectively powerful in hindsight.


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But also, Cho is giving a quiet and lovely performance as Max, who has put his life on hold in many ways. As Max and Wally go on this road trip, Cho has silent moments where we can see the reality of his situation hit him, as if a reminder hits him hard that, yes, this could be the last time he experiences this type of moment with his daughter. Much like Cho’s work in Kogonada’s beautiful film Columbus, Cho is showing how brilliant and powerful he can be in more tranquil performances.

Without spoiling Don’t Make Me Go’s twists and reveals, it certainly seems like Herbert’s script might have benefited from moving up some of these reveals between father and daughter a bit earlier, and allowing the audience to live in these moments with these characters. While it’s understandable why Max would want to keep some of these secrets close to his chest, it might be even more of a compelling story if these characters had to reckon with these choices more than they do. This especially feels like a missed opportunity when we see how beautiful these moments can be within Don’t Make Me Go, yet how rarely we spend time in these moments.


And as the film sets up from the beginning, Don’t Make Me Go sort of succeeds or fails depending on how they walk away from the film’s final minutes. On one hand, it’s a slightly odd misdirection that uses one character as little more than a tool for another character’s growth. On the other hand, it can also be seen as a reminder that every day should be cherished. Or, some combination of these two ideas.

But like the best road trips, Don’t Make Me Go isn’t necessarily about the destination, but instead about the journey. Don’t Make Me Go ends up becoming a bittersweet story about betting on yourself and living life to the fullest. All the pieces aren’t necessarily as strong as they could be, but there are enough stops along the way that really work, and a fantastic Cho performance, that make this a trip worth taking.


Rating: B-

Don’t Make Me Go is now streaming on Prime Video.



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Las Vegas News Magazine

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